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31 Mar 2022


China: Gig workers bear brunt of strict zero-Covid policy

"China’s gig workers pay a heavy price for the country’s zero-Covid policy" 31 March 2022

Luo Chuan was at home, taking a break from another grueling day of transporting meals and groceries for Chinese food delivery giant Meituan in the southern tech hub of Shenzhen, when he heard the news: a citywide lockdown was coming, part of the government’s zero-Covid policy. He grabbed his jacket, helmet, and mobile phone battery, and dashed out the door on his scooter. [...]

The harsh restrictions imposed on major cities as part of the government’s zero-Covid policy do not affect all workers equally. While white-collar employees at big tech companies have largely been able to work from home during the lockdowns, blue-collar workers, whose income is tied to their jobs in the streets and on production lines, have faced difficult decisions. After more than two years of China’s zero-Covid policy, platform workers, factory employees, and labor experts told Rest of World that workers are starting to feel fatigue — and the lockdowns only add unpredictability to already precarious work. [...]

This important job, however, is reinforcing the social and economic divides between delivery drivers — who are overwhelmingly male migrant workers from rural areas — and the urban populations they serve, according to Huang. “The pandemic intensified discrimination against drivers,” said Huang. “It’s the nature of food delivery work — drivers need to contact a lot of people, and everyone is afraid of contracting the virus — so drivers are being regarded as virus carriers.” [...]